Friday, November 19, 2010

In the Land of the Utes

By Wally Mersereau

Three Fast Break Club members travelled to Salt Lake City for the Utah game: Kellee Noonan, Doug Lee and me. It was an exciting game with the outcome uncertain until the final 7 minutes or so. Utah played great defense from start to finish and Kayla and Jeanette had trouble getting anything to fall in the first half. But the final outcome was much better than the last Stanford game in Salt Lake City which went into double overtime thanks to Mel's buzzer beater. Mel and Hannah did not travel to this game.

The Big Three was down to the Big Two. Nneka seemed to practice normally before the game, but did not play. She had three bandaged fingers on one hand, including two taped together--otherwise she seemed fine. Tara did as she said she would do and had a 9-player rotation without Nneka and still got the win. Sarah and Mikaela had their best games with 22 and 18 minutes respectively. Although Mikaela did not score, she played well.

Michelle Harrison was scoreless in the first half, but found her range in the second half with four 3s and a lay-up for 14 points. She was selected as Player of the Game by the court announcer and addressed the fans after the game. She and Tara embraced and exchanged a few words after the game.

Official attendance was 2000, but I estimated only about 800-1000 were actually there, including about 150 students. Students were offered a drawing for a $300 certificate for books, but had to be present for the drawing midway in the second half. Almost all of the students stayed for the whole game and were noisy throughout. Utah provided its band, its red-tailed hawk mascot and 13 dancing girls. One fan participation event I liked was the Hamster Roll in which two competing players were inside 6-foot-diameter clear plastic balls and had to propel themselves down the court and back, knocking over some plastic bowling pins at the far end. There also was a clown busily making balloon animals for kids. But only one concession stand and two pairs of restrooms were open. I was able to get an over-sized ice cream drumstick for $3 that prepared me for the second half.

I took the light rail from downtown to the Huntsman Center--only 13 minutes each way and no parking hassle. There was an event at the football stadium tonight that generated a lot of parked cars--perhaps a high school football game. During the day hundreds of high school students visited the university, arriving in yellow school buses.

The weather in Salt Lake City was overcast and windy with a high temperature in the 50s, but no rain. The highly visible mountains are covered with snow.

I was satisfied with the game. Utah narrowed Stanford's lead to two points twice in the first half and got it to 36-35 in the second half. But Stanford always quickly increased the lead and had solid control of the game in the last 7 minutes or so. Chiney was the first Stanford player to reach double digits. Jeanette and Kayla began scoring at their usual pace part way through the second half. And nine players got significant playing time even with Nneka on the bench. I was glad I came and felt this was a good W and a good experience for the team.